Kickstarting Frack Free February: Community Resistance to Extreme Energy Workshop

Frack Free February was kickstarted this weekend with a workshop at the Kebele Social Centre on Community Resistance to Extreme Energy followed by a fundraising evening of acoustic folk rock and punk, raising over £150 towards the Frack Free Somerset campaign.

The workshop, which brought together people from across the South West including Bristol, Somerset and South Wales, was focused on the wide spectrum of community groups across the world that are resisting ‘extreme energy’ – the last ditch attempts at fossil fuels, which take increasing amounts of energy to access and have increasing harmful impacts and risks. Included under this banner are various unconventional gas developments, such as fracking, coal bed methane and underground coal gasification, as well as nuclear power, more extreme forms of mining, such as open cast mines as well as biofuels and their astounding impact on ecosystems and communities.

After a go-round and an introduction to Frack Free February to set the scene, participants then heard from national group, Frack Off, a presentation about what extreme energy is, not just in terms of technologies and processes, but also in the context of the bigger picture.

It was clear to many after listening and discussing what was surfacing, that many of us from different campaigns were actually all working under the same banner in trying to address the attempts of the few at the top of the hierarchy in our societies controlling our energy supplies and putting economic benefit ahead of all human or nonhuman community safety or self determination.

After a short break the group reconvened to look at how communities had actually been resisting these harmful developments on the ground. We split into small groups and had a chance to hear presentations and ask questions to organisers from various groups including organisers from Stop Hinkley, the Rossport Solidarity campaign as well as what networks are now building in Scandinavia in response to unconventional gas and how these are reviving the radical environmental movement. An organiser from Australia also talked about the successes and incredible community organising taking place in Australia as part of the Lock the Gate campaigns and Coal Seam Gas Free Northern Rivers that are engaging a huge diversity of people to take action, including public meetings, blockades and more.

Following these sessions the group then reconvened to look at the Frack Free Somerset campaign, tactics and strategies used so far and plans for the future.

While groups were exploring these campaigns, a number of questions were asked including:

  • How can we avoid becoming isolated from the rest of society?
  • Are we thinking outside the box or just repeating the same old tactics?
  • How can we make the most of our losses?
  • Attack vs. Defense
  • How can we maintain a ‘positive’ vision, not just being anti-everything?
  • What are our wider goals?
  • What motivates people to act: scientific evidence or a sense of injustice?

These gave a lot of food for thought and after more tea and flapjack, it was time to apply all the ideas and lessons learned from the sessions to various campaign scenarios.

Small groups had to look at different scenarios and list potential points of intervention, before deciding on a route they’d take. This was an opportunity to balance various elements like community interaction, direct action, long term thinking and more. Example scenarios included things like developments being at various stages, from pre-planning permission, to full scale developments in various communities from rural to urban, and more.

It proved to be a really useful exercise that provoked a lot of creative thinking and analysis. The group then shared their feedback on the afternoon and continued to network before the benefit gig started.

One thing was clear from the workshop – that networking is powerful. No longer will we work as isolated single issue campaigns, when in fact we are incredibly connected – together resisting extreme energy and building a world based on sustainable energy consumption, appropriate technology and community-controlled energy systems. Talk began for organising a South West Extreme Energy Gathering to further build on these connections. Watch this space!

A massive thank you to Olive Anne, Lou from Caves and Jay from Inner Terrestrials who charmed everyone with their passionate playing, as well as to everyone who came and donated to the evening.

Posted on: February 4, 2013